Over the coming months I shall attempt to do a little more research into various aspects of London folklore that appeared in my book The Folklore of London.
Today I paid a brief visit to the Green Man pub on Edgware Road, right next to the Bakerloo line entrance to the station. The pub itself is shabby and unappealing, I couldn't be bothered to buy a drink so just had a quick look around - a pity, given the evocative name. Here's what I wrote in the book:
'When The Treasury of Folklore: London was published in the 1950s it was apparently possible to sample something a little out of the ordinary in The Green Man, 308 Edgware Road. At the bar we are informed, “you may ask for eye lotion and the publican will measure you out an ounce or two. This is a strange custom having its origin far beyond the eighteenth century, when a spring existed here that was supposed to have marvellous healing properties. The time came when the local people learnt with some measure of fear that their magic spring was threatened and they objected so strenuously that a clause was inserted into the lease of the tavern that was then being built over the spring. The clause said that the landlord of the inn should give a glass of the healing water from his cellar to any customer who asked for it. When the underground railway was tunnelled almost under The Green Man something untoward happened to the ancient spring and it had to be bricked over. Still, The Green Man continued to give away its eye lotion. They even now have it made up at the chemists. Always a bottle is kept in the bar as they never know when they will be asked for it.”'
I had rung the pub in 2008 and the barman knew nothing about eye lotion being available. On my visit today the situation was no different and there is nothing inside the pub such as a framed newspaper article or suchlike to recall the strange tale. Was this story quite literally 'eyewash'? A trawl through local newspapers might prove rewarding, but as these are still largely unindexed and not available in an online archive, the prospect does not fill me with enthusiasm. I shall do a little more searching but really it's the sort of thing that an elderly resident might recall. The photo of the pub above makes it look much better than it is in reality.
Author of Subterranean City, Beneath the Streets of London, London's Coffee Houses, Decadent London, The Folklore of London, Subterranean City (Revised and Expanded Edition), Netherwood, Last Resort of Aleister Crowley, Lord of Strange Deaths, the Fiendish World of Sax Rohmer; Secret Tunnels in England, Folklore and Fact